WELLINGTON, NZ - Can you really go home again? Orlando Bloom is finding out as he returns to the world of Middle Earth in Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." Bloom reprises his role as the Elf with a bow, arrow and long luxurious blond hair, Legolas, that he originated in the Oscar-winning "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. And, frankly, it's not bad timing.
What was your reaction to stepping back into this world the first day?
It was sheer joy. It was also a little bit of, "Oh, my word. This is 10 years later, I'm 10 years older and how's this all going to work?" I quite literally was like, "Can I just try on my old costume just for posterity of it all?" It was amazing that Pete was back at the helm of this movie, and it was amazing that I got a call to say "we would love you to be a part of the film." I was just full of excitement. I was obviously like, "Ooh! This is going to be interesting to make the transition as an Elf being 10 years older as myself, as an actor, going in to playing a character that would be younger, but as Elves are kind of ageless anyway we've managed to bridge the gap.
Is there much difference between Legolas in "The Hobbit" versus Legolas in "The Lord Of The Rings?"
No. Not massive. Essentially the Woodland Realm Elves, which is where Legolas is from, and my father being Thranduil, the king of those Elves, are a particular type of Elf as described by Tolkien to be... I'm not going to quote him correctly, but they are different from the Lothlorien and the Rivendell elves. They're more militant if you like. Legolas in "Lord of the Rings" was sent as a bridge from his people into the world of dwarves and humans and wizards and everything else. This is an introduction into the Woodland Realm Elves. Obviously we meet my father, Thranduil, who is a very powerful and strong character who is very particular in his vision of who the Elves are, who the Woodland Elves are, specifically. They are kind of, like I said, a militant group, the Woodland Realm Elves. So I think that the opportunity that Pete and Philippa and Fran and the writers and Pete saw was to create... I think there was a desire for Legolas to come back. They felt that the fans would appreciate seeing Legolas in the Woodland Realm, and there was an opportunity to create a father-son, a prince versus king dynamic that would be interesting and serve the story.
Can you talk about the dynamic a bit between your character and his father, and how much of that do we actually get to see?
I can, somewhat reluctantly, because I think it's more interesting for people to see it. There's definitely a bit of father-son rivalry, prince-king rivalry that forwards the story. I don't really want to elaborate on it more than that, but it makes for a more interesting dynamic, Thranduil being the king of the Woodland Realm and, as I've said, those Elves being more of a militant group of Elves. Knowing that Legolas goes on to be a bridge, like an architect for peace between the Elves and the rest of the world, you might be able to guess there might be a little bit of me trying to understand more of what the plight of the rest of the world is and therefore somewhat coming up against odds with my father. Does that help?
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Five Hobbit films that did not get made
On the set of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug we learned of five different Hobbit films we nearly got instead.
Benedict Cumberbatch has had a bad week as The Fifth Estate bombed at the US and UK box offices, but his next film is as close to a guaranteed box office winner as they come. In fact, it might be said he will set the box office ablaze, as Cumberbatch voices the dragon Smaug in the forthcoming second Hobbit movie.
We visited Middle Earth to meet the cast and crew in anticipation of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which is out on Boxing Day, and in our day on set we learned of five different Hobbit films we nearly got instead.
The McKellen Hobbit
For Sir Ian McKellen, The Hobbit doesn't have enough day-to-day detail. “The one disappointment is that Peter had half-promised, 'Wouldn't it be fun to see Gandalf getting up in the morning'. Peter's always saying he likes the guy who does sleep under a hedge and gets up and saves the world. So do I," McKellen mused.
"We see the dwarves eating a lot and drinking a lot. They never seem to go to the loo.”
The non-McKellen Hobbit
Not only didn't we get a domesticated wizard, we almost didn't get the same wizard. “I don't like to play a part that I have played before,” McKellen told us. “Once you've played Gandalf, you get offered a lot of parts for old men with white beards. And it's hardly worth you reading the script because however good it is, I feel I have done that. So there was a lot inside me saying, "No, no, no.”
"What persuaded me was could I bear the thought of somebody else playing Gandalf? I couldn't actually face talking to an eight-year-old and explaining why I didn't want to be Gandalf again."
The Office Hobbit
Martin Freeman wasn't worried about being branded Bilbo Baggins for life, after all he started out as Tim from The Office. “When you're younger, you can see it more as a trap. Actually you should be so lucky that you do a role where people identify that with you anyway, because most actors don't get one.”
He's even contemplated a cross-breeding of the two roles, a film where Bilbo often turns to look at the camera “and he has an unrequited love thing with Dori as well. Who sits behind a desk.”
The English Hobbit
Middle Earth is synonymous with New Zealand, yet the Hobbit films almost returned to the home of Tolkien, and it was all Australia's fault says Peter Jackson.
“A whole dispute we had with Actors' Equity in Australia nearly made us take the movie over to England to shoot. We came within a day or two of that decision. Then I had an ulcer. I won't blame the Australians for that, although, well, you know, it's debatable.”
The Early Hobbit
Jackson also confirmed it could all be finished now. “Our original plan was to make The Hobbit as a single movie, and then if that was successful, then to do The Lord of the Rings as two movies back to back. And that's what we pitched Harvey Weinstein back in about '95 or '96.”
They couldn't get the rights to The Hobbit, so they went with the Rings, and the rest is Middle Earth history.
Peter Jackson Will Follow 'Hobbit' Films With Smaller Stories
Given the look of his résumé over the past decade, it seems Peter Jackson would want to capitalize on the big-budget behemoths that have made him a marquee director. Instead, just the opposite is true. The "Lord of the Rings" auteur told The New Zealand Herald that more Hollywood blockbusters are not in his plans after the "Hobbit" series finishes its rollout.
Jackson wants to stick around New Zealand, where he filmed the "LOTR" and "Hobbit" franchises, to work on projects there. The director said he and partner Fran Walsh, who's written and produced most of Jackson's films, have some "New Zealand stories" up their sleeves.
"We have got a few bits and pieces that we are working on, Fran and I," Jackson said. "We just want to step off the Hollywood blockbuster thing for a while and we've had a few New Zealand stories in line for a while that we think would make great films. ... In some respects in terms of my remaining filmmaking career, this was a five-year chunk that was kind of taken out of it unexpectedly. My future is five years less than I thought it was. I thought if I am going to do that I am actually going to enjoy it. I am going to have fun. Hopefully, that is reflected on the screen, too."
That means we could see him return to the indie roots that inaugurated his career, a la 1994's acclaimed "Heavenly Creatures." Once he launched into the first "Lord of the Rings" entry, released in 2001, Jackson populated his film slate with other tentpole movies like "King Kong," made for $207 million, and "The Lovely Bones," made for $65 million. Even 2009's Best Picture-nominated "District 9," which Jackson produced and was budgeted at just $30 million, went on to gross monstrous numbers at the box office.
What exactly these New Zealand flicks will look like is yet to be seen, as Jackson's forthcoming projects are still in keeping with his big-budget penchants. After the third "Hobbit" release arrives in 2014, the following year will find Jackson helming the next entry in the "Adventures of Tintin" franchise. A third "Tintin" is also on the horizon.
At one point, the director did say he was eyeing a movie about World War I's Battle of Gallipoli. That was quite some time ago, though, and whether it could qualify as either a "New Zealand story" or a "Heavenly Creatures"-esque indie seems unlikely.
Collecting The Precious – Weta Workshop’s Thranduil Statue and Daggers of Tauriel
Today, marks the day you can start seeing products for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and our friends from Weta Workshop have released the first of 20 brand new products you will see before the end of the year. These two items were just a couple of the many amazing things that Weta had at their booth during Comic-Con 2013. The first item is a truly elegant and finely detailed statue of the Elven King Thranduil.
You can pre-order Thranduil right now for $275 with a limited stock shipping in November with more stock arriving in December. Don’t wait to order your Thranduil as he has an edition size of 1000 pieces worldwide. The other item is the awesome prop replica of the daggers you will see Tauriel carry during the movie. You can snag the Daggers of Tauriel right now for $149 with a limited supply in-stock ready to ship. These daggers also have an edition size of just 1000 pieces so they’re sure to not last long.
‘Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug’ characters featured on stamps, coins
New Zealand Post is bracing for Hobbit-mania of global proportions for the latest issue of stamps and coins to mark the release of the second film in The Hobbit Trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM).
New Zealand Post was bombarded with orders from 88 countries for last year’s issue to celebrate the 2012 release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Head of Stamps and Coins Simon Allison says a third of all orders are from overseas with people in some far-flung locations keen to get their hands on the range of commemorative coins, presentation packs and stamps.
“We had orders from Kazakhstan, Iceland, Libya, Bolivia and the Canary Islands – there are Hobbit movie fans literally around the globe that can’t wait to get hold of the New Zealand Post-produced stamps and coins.
“Based on last year’s experience, we know news of this release will spread far and wide and the orders will start pouring in. We’ll be shipping Gandalf the Grey to Greece and they’ll be going bonkers for Bilbo Baggins first day covers in Brunei,” he said.
Simon Allison said the next biggest demand after New Zealand came from Australia, the UK and the United States.
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